Indian Passport: You Weak, Useless Thing!
After living in the United Kingdoms for a few years, travelling a bit of the world, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is: being an Indian is a proud thing. People around the world like Indians, respect Indians, and are always eager to know more about Indians.
While I was backpacking across Southeast Asia last year, there were so many instances which made it so much easier for me to connect with others – locals and travellers alike – as I told them I’m from India. Bollywood and Yoga made my identity even more interesting.
But feeling cooler and wanted is one thing, and feeling empowered is another. Sure my identity, as an Indian makes me feel good, perhaps even respectable, but it does not make me feel empowered – not as long as I hold a Navy Blue coloured passport saying ‘Republic of India’.
Indian Passport Makes Me Feel Weak, Forget About Being Empowered
There’s no denying the fact that Indian passport is embarrassingly weak – given our country is considered as one of the leading economic powers in the world. From Chinese to Americans to Russians, everyone consider India an important state to trade with, but when it comes to welcoming its members they all take a step back. I won’t blame them for this antagonistic behaviour though, our former government’s sloppiness towards foreign relations has, in fact, much to do with it. But let’s not go into politics and rather remorse on how fucked-up position Indians are actually in.
Before I say anything further, let’s take a look at the following two maps… the grey part of the world are countries where I, being an Indian passport holder, cannot access without applying for a VISA in the respective state’s embassy (and even most of the other colourful countries, as shown in the map, only offer a disappointing VISA-on-arrival, with a travel time of less than 15 days):
Now let’s compare it with someone who holds the passport for the Great Britain (consider the top 50 strong passport holding nations having an almost similar picture):
Pretty disgraceful, Indian passport is, right?
And in case you thought, I compared India with UK or other such strong nations, let me tell you that most of the ranking systems consider Indian passport among the few least powerful passports in the world, and we rank below countries like Kazakhstan, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, and even Cambodia and Bhutan – now that’s a real shame!
Anyway, my point here is not to make any false generalizations or make you look down upon our national identity. All I’m saying is that our weak passport curbs us from travelling, and makes our life tougher as a global citizen.
A Weak Passport Makes You Bleed Extra Money
Last year, while I was backpacking across Southeast Asia, I ended up paying an extra few grands because of my passport. How? I wanted to travel by land from Thailand to Cambodia, but only to make sure that my VISA on Arrival doesn’t get rejected, I’d pre-book an exit flight as well (from Thailand to Cambodia). Where the road transport would have costed me about 1,200 Rupees, the flight costed 5,500. A loss of more than 4,000 Rupees without any positive outcome.
I moreover wanted to visit Malaysia, from Thailand, but that again would’ve meant an extra flight, because despite an open border, Indians are NOT ALLOWED to travel to Malaysia by land. Most of the Europeans and other strong passport holders can however do that. We moreover can’t apply VISAs to most of the countries if we’re not physically present in India. For example, if you’re in US and want to apply for a Thai Visa, you’re required to first return to India, kill at least 15 days here and then fly to Thailand (unless you’ve a few good reasons, and backpacking is definitely isn’t one of them!) whereas English, German, French and god knows how many other nationalities can fly straight from US to Thailand to Australia and wherever else they wanted to.
Now one thing is that Indians already couldn’t travel much because of their disappointing salaries. And if somehow they manage to save some money and planned travelling abroad, their passport makes things tougher for them, to a next level.
Why It’s Tough To Find Indian Backpackers Abroad
During my last couple of years of nomadic life, I’ve met an unaccountable number of non-Indian backpackers living a peripatetic lifestyle – moving from country to country, and not caring about money as much as experience. They jump borders more easily and frequently than we as Indians jump a traffic light. Travelling abroad, for us, has always remained a big deal. Because even when a visa is possible for us, it’s far from simple.
After all there must be a reason why it’s so tough to spot an Indian face lugging a heavy rucksack, jumping one country to another – because they know that such a lifestyle isn’t possible for them.
I mean even if you look at the many Indian travel bloggers of today, you won’t find a single freestyle backpacker blogger who writes about cheap backpacking tips on travelling abroad. Why? Because they can’t! If they need a VISA, anywhere outside a few sillier countries like Mauritius or Bali, they’re required to show a complete end-to-end itinerary. This is moreover a pre-requisite for countries including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other such, which offer us a VISA ON ARRIVAL option, and some of boast that Indians can visit these countries as and WHEN they want. NO! We Can’t! Because if we pre-book our itinerary, book all our hotels and transportation before we even arrive in the country, the entire idea of backpacking is already lost somewhere in oblivion.
Applying For A VISA Is Like Applying For A New Birth Certificate
I was recently into the process of applying the Schengen VISA and it turned out that other than a return flight, and pre-booked accommodation, I was also required to provide the proof(s) of my means of transportation inside Europe. The only thing I was free to do is eat and shit where I wanted, everything else had to have a reason. No wonder, getting VISAs for Indian is a tough nut to crack.
For a tourist visa application to even approach success, I need to present bank statements, letters of recommendation and introduction, return tickets, hotel bookings, proof of employment and even tax records. I have to make every possible move (even use some creativity) to convince the visa officer, beyond all reasonable doubt, that I’m planning on going home at the end of my stay.
As a freelance writer, my income is not regular, I don’t have a place of work, and I don’t even have a two-week holiday block. And because my income was not taxable last year, I clearly don’t have a safety net now. Now that I’ve applied for the VISA, I have a certain amount of fear all the time, until I get my passport back – either accepted or accepted (I’m afraid of saying the other word)!
But I also wish to see the world. My heart also desires to explore more countries, and just as much as a German’s or a Korean’s. But alas!, I’m an Indian and because my passport is a bitch, I’ve to take it upon me as a lifelong curse!
Are you an Indian passport holder too? Let’s share our experiences in the comments below!
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